at Harry S Truman Birthplace State Historic Site

Preamble for the Conceptual Development Plan

The purpose of the Preamble is to provided the guiding principals for the Conceptual Development Plan. The Preamble will consist of the Significance and History and the Mission Statement of a particular park or site.

The History and Significance section should describe the nature and significance of the resources at the park or site. It should also outline the basic history of the park or site, when it was acquired, why it was acquired, past uses of the site, and should include a general description of existing uses. The Significance and History sets the stage or foundation for the Mission Statement.

The purpose of the Mission Statement is to establish the role or direction for a park or site and should be dictated by the significant resources of the park or site. In general terms, the Mission Statement outlines how the park or site is to function in the future and will address the three elements of the State Park Mission (natural, cultural and recreation) and the emphasis placed on each. The Mission Statement guides the physical development, resource use and management of a park or site.

History and Significance

Part of the genius of the American political system is that any person, no matter how humble his origins, can become President of the United States. The Harry S Truman Birthplace State Historic Site, in Lamar, Missouri, is an admirable example of this precept. The centerpiece of the site is a modest one-story frame dwelling, just 20 x 28 feet, with four small rooms--two bedrooms, a kitchen and a parlor--on the ground floor and two more bedrooms in the finished attic space. It was in the southwest bedroom on the first floor--a diminutive space of just 6' 6" by 10' 9"--that the future 33rd President of the United States, Harry S Truman, was born on May 8, 1884.

The proud parents of this future president were John A. Truman and Martha Ellen Young Truman, who were married on December 28, 1881. They had married late--Martha, or "Mattie," was 29, John, 30. John entered the marriage with neither money nor any special skills, but he had ambitions to become a livestock trader, and he was honest and a hard worker. His wife, "Mattie," was the daughter of a successful livestock trader, Solomon Young, who had done well as a freighter on the Santa Fe Trail, and had, by 1850, amassed 5,000 acres of land. The parents of both newlyweds had migrated to Missouri from Kentucky in the 1840s, and settled in Jackson County. Solomon Young, though a Unionist, suffered greatly during the Civil War at the hands of Jayhawkers, including the notorious Jim Lane, who managed to kill, drive off, or carry away most of Young's livestock, crops, wagons, bedding and even 30,000 fence rails. He and his family were then forcibly evicted from their farm, at Grandview, Missouri, by the notorious Order No. 11. Mattie Young carried bitter memories of these incidents and passed them down through the Truman family.

John and Mattie Truman chose to commence their married life at Lamar, a crossroads town and county seat of Barton County, located some 120 miles south of Kansas City. Situated along the Kansas border, the town suffered heavily during the Bleeding Kansas and Civil War years; the notorious bushwacker, William Quantrill, attacked the town twice. By war's end, Lamar had been burned to the ground and the county left largely depopulated. In the booming and expanding post war years Lamar experienced a rapid recovery. Each post war decade saw a doubling of the town's population; by 1880 it had reached 2,780. At that time, the town could boast of several churches, two public schools, three newspapers, banks, hotels, factories, and a $25,000 opera house. The surrounding prairie land was ideal for raising corn, wheat, cattle and hogs. John A. Truman must have seen many bright opportunities for livestock trading in this rapidly expanding region. Two years prior to his arrival, the tracks of the Fort Scott and Memphis railroad were laid east-west through town, and the following year, the Missouri Pacific built a north-south route through Lamar.

Whether these developments influenced John Truman's decision to located in Lamar is unknown, but the house he purchased was just one block from the Missouri Pacific tracks. Around the same time, he also purchased a mule barn, located diagonally across the street from his house, that was adjacent to the railroad right-of-way and a block south of the depot. The house was purchased for $685 while the mule barn and lot cost an additional $200. In the meantime he and Mattie set up housekeeping. In addition to John, Mattie and, after May 1884, baby Harry, John's father, Anderson Truman, and a spinster sister, Mary Martha Truman, resided with the Trumans in their small house.

Either the Trumans became homesick for Jackson County, or the mule trading business in Lamar did not live up to expectations. For whatever reason, when Harry was ten months old, the Trumans moved to Harrisonville, near the Solomon Young farm where Mattie had grown up. After two years, the Trumans moved into the large Young household, and John A. Truman became the partner of Solomon Young. Three years later, the Trumans moved to Independence so that Harry, now a boy of six, could receive a proper education.

Harry's education did not extend beyond high school. The necessity of assisting his father in the management of the Grandview farm compelled Truman to forsake any dreams of a college education for the "horse sense" education and dawn to dusk labor of farming. His character was further shaped by his World War I service, and by a brief stint as co-owner of a haberdashery, before he finally discovered his true calling--politics. He began his storied political career on the Jackson County Court, with the backing of the notorious Pendergast machine, and then moved on to the United States Senate and vice presidency. On April 12, 1945, upon the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, he became President of the United States. He then proceeded, in 1948, to win election, in his own right, for another term as President.

His insatiable thirst for knowledge, he was always an avid and constant reader, plus the strong system of bedrock American values he learned in his rural and small midwestern town environment, combined with his boundless energy, his moral and physical courage and his basic honesty all made him into the man who became Missouri's only president. History has Truman spotlighted as one of the greatest presidents in American history (historians currently rank him eighth on the list of great American presidents). For this reason, the birthplace home in Lamar, the Grandview farm home, and Truman home at 219 North Delaware Street in Independence--all in public ownership--play a vital role in helping to understand the quintessential "man from Missouri," President Harry S Truman.


The mission of Harry S Truman Birthplace State Historic Site is to preserve, restore and interpret the nationally significant birthplace of Harry S Truman, 33rd President of the United States of America, and to interpret the John A. Truman family within the context of life in Lamar, Missouri during the late 19th century. 

Approved by

Douglas K. Eiken, Director, Division of State Parks, 08/14/97
Gary Walrath, District Supervisor, Southern Missouri Historic District, 08/01/97